Podcast Episode 2: Ebola — A Global Health Challenge

Today, Wikistrat’s Senior Analyst Prof. Randy Cheek sits down with Geostrategy Radio to discuss insights from Wikistrat’s “Ebola: A Global Health Challenge” simulation.

West Africa’s Ebola epidemic could have a silver lining if global leaders have the wisdom and courage to act. This is a strategic opportunity to replace the existing reactive, ad hoc global health response system with a more proactive, targeted response to outbreaks of infectious disease.

In this episode of Wikistrat’s Geostrategy Radio podcast, Prof. Cheek discusses this and other insights from the recently-conducted “Ebola: A Global Health Challenge” simulation.

Professor Randy Cheek is the former Director for Central Africa at the Africa Bureau of the Department of Defense. He is an expert on African security and a Wikistrat Senior Analyst.

Click here to access the summary report from the “Ebola: A Global Health Challenge” simulation.

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Ask Wikistrat Staff — Dr. Shay Hershkovitz

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with the Director of Wikistrat’s Analytic Community, Dr. Shay Hershkovitz. Questions and Dr. Hershkovitz’s answers are transcribed below.

Shay Hershkovitz

As Director of the Analytic Community, Dr. Shay Hershkovitz oversees and guides the activity of Wikistrat’s ever-expanding network of experts and he is involved in the development of Wikistrat’s methodology and product offerings.

A former senior intelligence officer, Dr. Hershkovitz has accumulated experience in analysis of complex security and political environments. He also has a specialization in political analysis — particularly that which pertains to the Middle East. He earned a PhD in Political Science and lectured at several colleges and universities, specializing in consumer culture, globalization and political theory.

Before joining Wikistrat, Dr. Hershkovitz operated a boutique consultancy specializing in competitive intelligence analysis and developed unique methodologies for business war-games.

Matt R. Batten-Carew: I’m in the process of completing my second Master’s and during my studies I have met many people who have been interested in becoming involved with Wikistrat. Does Wikistrat currently run any regular recruitment partnerships with universities? If not, is this something that might be possible in the future?

Answer: Wikistrat has and will continue to work with universities from around the world to complement a wide variety of initiatives. Specifically in regard to recruitment, we are looking for potential analysts with significant academic and professional experience. To that end, directly targeting individuals in the upper levels of study or in teaching has been more beneficial for our goals than casting a wide net. That said, we are always looking for new opportunities to improve our work and remain open to developing connections with universities, honor societies and alumni networks to ensure that qualified candidates are aware of what we offer.

Christoph Unrast: How could Wikistrat utilize that its analysts are participating from different time zones?

Answer: Wikistrat already utilizes the fact that its analysts are participating in activities from different time zones. It enables round-the-clock coverage and significantly cuts down production time, something that is especially important in client projects. In addition, different time zones minimize periods of low activity in the community network, thus increasing the interactivity of Wikistrat’s various features.

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New Wikistrat Simulation: 21st-Century Education Optimized

21st Century Education Optimized banner

This week, Wikistrat started a new simulation to study how education will evolve globally over the next several decades.

Globalization has reshaped the work landscape, as both low-skilled labor and high-skilled jobs are now exportable or “networkable.” Most jobs leverage the human capacity for precise repetition (whether manual or mental) and even the most intimate of services (medical, for example) can be outsourced — if the customer (patient) is willing to travel based on price points.

Wikistrat itself is based on a similar principle: Why limit your talent pool to outside expertise (e.g., the Western expert on Japan) when local talent (a Japanese expert on Japan) can be “logged in”?

Thomas Friedman famously dubbed this reality a “flat world,” and while that’s true in a macro sense, education is still the great divider of income levels and, by extension, life-paths that are often perpetuated across family generations (doctors beget more doctors, etc.).

One thing is for certain: With labor becoming so mobile and/or remotely accessible, there is little excuse for not finding the right person for the right job. And that means educational and vocational credentials rule all. If, as a leader, you don’t educate your population effectively, you essentially create a permanent underclass that will drag you down economically, stress you out socially and put your nation’s political stability at risk.

In this crowdsourced simulation, Wikistrat’s analysts are asked to propose how education can be “optimized” to face these challenges.

WS AnalystsAre you interested in participating in simulations like these? Apply for membership to the analytic community here.

Stay tuned to Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter channels for updates and insights from this simulation!

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Ana Belén Soage

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Ana Belén Soage. Questions and Ms. Soage’s answers are transcribed below.

Ana Belén Soage

Ana Belén Soage holds degrees in Politics and Translation & Interpreting and a European Doctorate in Middle Eastern Studies. She has traveled widely in the Middle East and North Africa and speaks fluent Arabic. She has published a variety of academic articles dealing with issues related to political Islam in the Middle East and Europe.

Sergio Castaño Riaño: I would like to know your opinion about the role the Muslim Brotherhood could play in Egypt in the next few years? Do you think the organization could change its moderate strategy and return to violence to achieve their goals? Are there real links between the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist groups in Egypt? Or are they bidding their time, waiting for new opportunities to emerge again as political alternative?

Answer: After the coup that deposed Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood rejected any responsibility for the turn of events and demanded the “return to legitimacy”, i.e., the restoration of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, ignoring the huge demonstrations that had demanded his resignation. Together with other Islamist groups, it set up the National Alliance in Support of Legitimacy and Against the Coup and urged its supporters to stage mobilizations. In addition, there is evidence that it has played a role in the terrorist violence that has plagued the country for the last year and a half.

At the same time, the Brotherhood has sought alliances with other forces opposed to the return of military power, both Islamist and secular, ostensibly with an aim to restoring the principles of the 2011 revolution. Last May, it signed the Brussels Declaration, based on a proposal by Liberal politician Ayman Nour, which was ratified by other — mainly Islamist — forces in Egypt as the Cairo Declaration. In August, it co-founded the Istanbul-based Egyptian Revolutionary Council, which includes Islamists but also members of wider civil society and is headed by an unveiled woman, Dr. Maha Azzam of Chatham House. Both initiatives have failed to have any real impact on the situation in Egypt, and the second was quickly dismissed as “Erdogan’s Council”.

The Muslim Brotherhood may be undergoing its worst crisis since it was founded, possibly even worse than its “mihna” (ordeal) under Nasser, because it has never lost so much so quickly. After holding the highest office in the country, it has been declared a terrorist organization, thousands of its members and supporters have been imprisoned and hundreds — including its General Guide — have been condemned to death. Eighteen months of confrontation and repression have radicalized certain sectors within the organization, especially the young. Furthermore, its actions have antagonized most Egyptians, who decided to throw their lot with a new strongman from the army out of fear that their country might become a failed state like Libya.

The failure of the mobilizations has reinforced the hand of those within the organization who believe that compromises will have to be made if it is to regain legality and even return to parliament — possibly through other Islamist parties, such as Hizb al-Wasat or Strong Egypt. Not everybody is willing to concede defeat, though, and more radical members could join the Jihadist groups which many already suspect them of collaborating with. In this scenario, there might be a split within the Muslim Brotherhood. (more…)

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Turkey and Qatar: Deal-Makers or Deal-Breakers? Report Released

Turkey Qatar banner

Wikistrat is happy to release today the summary report from the “Turkey and Qatar: Deal-Makers or Deal-Breakers?” Simulation.

Turkey and Qatar - Deal-Makers or Deal-Breakers - Wikistrat Report

Ever since the Arab Spring provided an opening for the mobilization of Islamist political movements across the Middle East and North Africa, Turkey and Qatar have developed significant connections with a range of violent and nonviolent Islamist groups across the region. These strategic initiatives have often put them at odds with their traditional regional allies, and many have called into question the durability of Turkish and Qatari alliances with the United States, NATO, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Their strategies since 2011 have made Turkey and Qatar key players in a variety of regional conflicts and controversies: post-Morsi Egypt, the Syrian civil war, post-Qaddafi Libya, Israel-Palestine, the Iranian nuclear issue, and others. Turkey and Qatar have been able to operate independently because their governments have enjoyed public support, their economies were growing, they boasted high revenues, and their core leadership was confident in their distinctive roles in regional politics. The costs and benefits of these independent initiatives are certain to be recalculated under different global and local conditions.

Will Turkey and Qatar continue to strike out on their own? Will they rejoin their traditional allies? Will they look farther abroad for new allies and strategic opportunities? Will their economic or regional position change, thus forcing shifts in Turkish and Qatari foreign policy?

Click here or on the cover image to download the full PDF report.

For more information about Wikistrat and for access to the full simulation archive, contact

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Ask a Senior Analyst — S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana. Questions and Dr. Kadayifci-Orellana’s answers are transcribed below.

Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana

Dr. S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana is the Interim Associate Director and Visiting Assistant Professor at Georgetown University’s MA program in Conflict Resolution. Before going to Georgetown University, she served as a consultant for the Religion and Peacebuilding Program at the United States Institute of Peace and as an Assistant Professor in the field of Peace and Conflict Resolution at the School of International Service at American University, Washington DC. She is also a founding member of the Salam Institute for Peace and Justice, where she served as the Associate Director. She is the author of Standing on an Isthmus: Islamic Narratives of War and Peace in the Palestinian Territories and co-authored and edited the volume Anthology on Islam and Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam: Precept and Practice.

Ariel Reichard: How would you characterize Turkish policy toward the Syrian civil war? While in the beginning Turkey tended to support Assad, it now vehemently opposes his regime. While it views ISIS as the enemy, it refuses to support Kurdish fighters against it and denies them free access to the Syrian front. Do you see a way for Turkey out of its deadlock and indecisiveness? Do you envision any constructive role for Turkey in what is currently happening in Syria?

Answer: Turkish policy toward Syria cannot be comprehended without understanding the challenges the civil war there created for Turkey. After 2000, Turkish-Syrian relations blossomed and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Bashar al-Assad developed a personal friendship. But relationship soured after the 2011 uprising in Syria. Turkey’s attitude gradually moved from being that of a “big brother” advising Assad to implement democratic reforms to one of an ‘archenemy’ cutting diplomatic ties and championing political and armed intervention to remove Assad from power.

Turkey’s initial reaction to Syria was partly the result of overestimating Turkey’s influence over Assad. Erdoğan assumed his relationship with Assad would be sufficient to convince the Syrian leader to implement the recommended reforms. However, Syria perceived Turkey’s attitude as as a form of “Ottoman colonialism.” Turkey, in turn, saw Syria’s refusal to follow its advice as a sign of disrespect — and as undermining Turkey’s regional credibility and legitimacy. Soon after, in line with Western governments, Turkey started to support the Syrian opposition to overthrow Assad and facilitated initiatives, meetings, trainings and military support to the Syrian opposition.

Turkey received more than one million Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers. The influx of so many refugees has caused enormous problems for Turkey and at times created conflict between local populations and refugees, something that has influenced Turkish public opinion of the country’s Syria policy.

Another factor that influenced Turkey’s policy is the nature of the Syrian opposition. Exactly who the rebel groups are, what their objectives are, their positions and their relations with each other is still unclear. Turkey nevertheless supported the opposition was particularly sympathetic toward Islamic groups. ISIS benefited from this confusion. It is now widely accepted that many of the ISIS leaders have been treated in Turkey and many militants went to Syria from Turkey, but it is unclear if they were aware of the extremist agenda of ISIS or the extent of the threat.

There are now many sympathizers of ISIS in Turkey. Recent protests in support of ISIS not only shocked many Turks, but also reminded the government of the vulnerability of the domestic security situation. Many in Turkey, including government officials, fear the repercussions were it to join the anti-ISIS coalition.

Another complication for Turkey was the siege of the Kurdish town of Kobani by ISIS and the looming massacre of many innocent Kurdish citizens there. Kobani posed a unique challenge for Turkey because it was a stronghold of the PKK, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party of Turkey, and the PYD, the Democratic Union Party of Syria. Both are considered terrorist organizations by Turkey and many Western governments. Although Turkey has initiated a peace process to end the conflict with the Kurds domestically, it maintained that the PKK was a terrorist group. Turkish officials have even stated that the PKK is as evil as ISIS and that there should be no distinction between them.

Any Turkish effort to relieve the Kobani siege would have put Turkey on the side of the PKK and the PYD against ISIS. The AKP government needed to avoid that impression at any cost, especially with elections coming up in June 2015. If Erdogan is to expand his new presidential powers, he cannot afford to alienate nationalists who are fiercly anti-PKK. For that reason, he let Kurdish militias from northern Iraq enter Syria from Turkey. (more…)

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Podcast Episode 1: The Future of Warfare

Wikistrat is proud to announce the launch of our new “Geostrategy Radio” podcast.

What is the future of warfare? Which aspects of war are immutable and which are likely to evolve? How will the nature and character of warfare change over the coming century?

The past three decades have seen the rapid adoption of new technologies in all domains of warfare. The advent of unmanned systems, precision strike, persistent and expanded sensors and cyberwarfare — to name but a few of the dramatic changes — seems to indicate a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).

To answer these and other questions about the changing nature of warfare, Wikistrat ran a several-weeks-long discussion forum that involved the participation of dozens of analysts on our network.

Supervisor Russ Glenn administered the forum and sat down with Geostrategy Radio host Steve Keller to discuss some of the insights therein. Topics covered included the role of drones, artificial intelligence, tanks, individual soldiers and much, much more.

The podcast was developed by Social Media Coordinator Steve Keller and Podcast Producer Mike Best.

Russ Glenn has a PhD in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Cambridge and has worked extensively on Chinese and U.S. international relations, energy security and security issues. He has been a contributor to Wikistrat since 2011 and currently works as a researcher in Palo Alto.

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If Britain Exits the EU

Wikistrat Logo-06

November 10, 2014
Washington, D.C.

If Britain Exits the EU,

It Needs to Reinvent Its Place in the World

If Britain does exit the European Union, it would need a clear sense of the sort of a country it wants to be or it could easily end up in a much worse position, according to analysis from Wikistrat, the world’s first crowdsourced consultancy.

In an online strategic simulation, more than 80 Wikistrat analysts envisaged as many as 26 pathways for a United Kingdom outside the European Union. Those scenarios in which Britain thrived were predicated on Britain leaving the EU of its own accord, rather than being pushed out; and Britain successfully reinventing its place in the world.

If it fails to meet either of those conditions, the outcome will at best be mixed.

The greatest danger is that other European countries underestimate British Eurosceptic sentiment. If they agree to deeper political integration and a further centralization of powers in Brussels, the British public is more likely to turn against the project altogether.

This, combined with Prime Minister David Cameron overplaying his hand in negotiations — as he has been prone to do — could result in an “accidental” British withdrawal from the European Union, even if neither Cameron nor his European counterparts want it.

Unprepared for an EU-exit, Britain will then likely scramble for membership in the European Economic Area. However, doing so would subject the country to almost all the regulations it sought to escape while denying it any say in EU rulemaking.

The EU could retaliate by restricting British employment and trade opportunities on the Continent, weakening Britain’s economic recovery and exacerbating unemployment within migrant groups, thus creating a vicious cycle of isolation, xenophobia, and poor economic performance.

Unless British leaders come up with a positive vision of their country’s identity outside the EU, the very conditions that would drive voters to say “no” to Europe in a referendum risk becoming worse.

If Britain does chart its own course, it could leave the EU on the back of a surging economy. The countries that use the euro remain mired in low growth, but Britain, with its own currency, is one of the fastest-growing economies in the developed world. Outside the EU, it could continue doing business with Europe while negotiating more favorable trade relations with emerging economies in Asia and Latin America.

One way to achieve this would be by reinvigorating the European Free Trade Association, which Britain helped found in 1960. Rejoining it would enhance British trade relations with the Commonwealth, strengthen bilateral ties with the United States, and maintain continued access to continental markets. Thus, an EU-exit would not mean isolation for Britain, but an involvement in regional integration dynamics, which would appease both Britain’s internal idiosyncrasies and European traders. (more…)

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Ask a Senior Analyst — R. Jordan Prescott

Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, R. Jordan Prescott. Questions and Mr. Prescott’s answers are transcribed below.

Robert Jordan Prescott

Robert Jordan Prescott is a private contractor working in defense and national security. He blogs about American politics and security at House of Marathon.

Bilyana Lilly: Would you envision the U.S. reducing its military commitments in Europe given pressures for fiscal discipline on one hand and an increasingly aggressive Russian foreign policy posture on the other?

Answer: In my estimation over the near term (2014-2017), the United States posture in Europe will neither increase nor decrease. Specifically, the U.S. will not add to existing levels of manpower and equipment, but will shift extant posture eastward to reassure allies and deter Russia.

First, the impetus for fiscal discipline now becomes subject to the agenda of the newly-elected Republican Senate majority. Historically, Republicans have more supportive of a muscular foreign policy and higher defense spending; whether these traditions still hold and will translate again into formal policy and legislative provisions is unknown. The Republican Party is currently involved in a debate between its conservative establishment wing, which endorses intervention abroad and expanding military capabilities, and a libertarian insurgent wing, which is more selective in regard to intervention and more prepared to scrutinize Department of Defense organizational performance. The former will have concurrent allies in the form of bureaucratic constituencies and the industrial base; the latter will not, but is able to mobilize voters. Accordingly, a potential compromise would entail a Republican Congress producing a fairly static defense budget (or minor increases), with substantial shifts within the underlying accounts.

Second, the aforementioned debate between the two wings will play out more sharply in the 2016 Republican presidential primarily election. The final presidential ticket may be balanced, but a single individual will still be the clear representative of one wing or the other.

The last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, named Russia as America’s principal geopolitical threat. In light of interim events, a number of Republican candidates might expand upon that theme.

The Democratic presidential race is less competitive, but the presumed frontrunners are veterans of the incumbent administration and have signaled their readiness to adjust policy. Accordingly, the two major party nominees will likely be proponents of a more confrontational stance and may be prepared to “out-bid” each other. As such, policy after 2017 is very difficult to predict.

To conclude, the military posture in Europe is still undergoing adjustment downward from the end of the Cold War. Russia’s foreign policy, while provocative, will not reverse these plans, but postpone them. Proponents of a “greater commitment” will likely succeed in approving more funding for training, exercises and deployments to Eastern Europe (and maybe accelerated deployment of missile defense systems). Proponents of a “fiscally-responsible” Department of Defense will likely expect continued downsizing and engagement with Russia. Lastly, this baseline will influence the 2016 presidential race and may lead to Democratic and Republican nominees competing on anti-Russia foreign policy positions. (more…)

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Heightened Tensions in the East and South China Seas Report Released

Heightened Tensions in the East and South China Seas

Territorial disputes, rising tensions and increased military capabilities in the East and South China Seas: will this lead to a regional arms race and potential conflict, or will cooler heads prevail and quell any local action?

A Wikistrat report, released today, explores four distinct scenarios that discuss various aspects of the fragile situation, including interference from the United States, Chinese assertiveness and regional reactions.

ESCS report cover

The East and South China Seas territorial disputes, including but not limited to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the Spratlys and the Scarborough Shoal, have not only increased in complexity but are an area of concern for the United States. The lands in question hold historical and strategic significance and highly sought-after potential energy reserves. As China has grown in power and asserted its regional influence, it has looked to increase its claim to these territories, causing concern among neighboring states with similar claims. Under these circumstances, the current international order in East Asia, maintained by the United States, comes into question.

The significance of these disputed territories as strategically important and prospective offshore energy sources is fueling efforts to solidify national claims. In the midst of increased disquiet over the issue, regional states are augmenting and modernizing their military capabilities, particularly the navy and aerospace. Notably, China has dramatically increased military capacity while states such as Japan, Australia, and South Korea are also undergoing upgrades. Such increased military investment and political strain could lead to a regional arms race and accidentally spark conflict over a misunderstanding.

In light of the United States’ commitment to maintaining its conception of international order, what role could they play to ease tensions? Or will regional states step up and mediate before the situation becomes unstable?

In June 2014, Wikistrat conducted a crowdsourced simulation exercise intended to examine potential driving factors that could influence stability in the waters of the East and South China Sea. The simulation utilized the expertise of more than seventy analysts who developed scenarios and policy options illustrating the complexity of the political and economic issues surrounding this topic.

In the report released today, Wikistrat Senior Analyst Dr. Robert Farley summarizes these findings into four “Master Narratives,” illustrating possible courses of action and strategic outcomes.

Click here or on the cover image to download the full PDF report.

For more information about Wikistrat and for access to the full simulation archive, contact

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